Food Critic Segment/Restaurant Reviews

Corvallis, OR “del Alma Restaurant and Bar”

 

IMG_1233WOW! In a nutshell, WOW!  This is a place that I am excited to write about. Let me introduce you to Eva our Bartender. She was fantastic!  To work at a place like “del Alma” you really have to know your stuff. Because Eva is in the role of Bartender, the face of the restaurant, I know for certain, that she is the best of the best!  For her to know how to make all of their specialty-craft cocktails, as well as have the knowledge and expertise of such an extensive menu, you have to be at the top of your game and Eva was! Simply put, her knowledge, demeanor, passion towards the food and where she worked showed through our entire experience.  She guided us through the menu and we took her recommendations throughout.  You are going to like this one!

OVERALL RATING: 10+          

SSERVICE: 10+   FOOD: 10+  AMBIENCE 10+ VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY: 10+

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On August 24, 2018 we had the pleasure of dining with a special guest.  John is a distinguished man and has a charming, New Zealand accent. He is a fabulous person to be around and we were excited to visit over a wonderful dinner. He highly recommended one of his favorite places to go…and I can see why.  “del Alma” is located in downtown Corvallis and has a view of the waterfront. I wish I was there right now to experience this again.  Simply put, every single item along with presentation was breathtakingly, outstanding!

del Alma means “of the soul” and the menu is inspired by the flavors of Latin, America, the Caribbean, and Spain and features fresh ingredients from local markets, farms, and ranches of the Northwest.  The only other restaurant that I have found thus far that is even close to being on the same level is “Mariposa” in Sedona, AZ which I have written about on two other occasions. (see blog archives for the reviews). There is something about the “soul”, “passion” and “creativity” of the Chef’s in both of these restaurants that is hard to compete with.  You can feel the love in the food and see it in the presentation. The hair on your arms stands on end as you experience the sublime creativity, the spectacularly well laid out plate and the perfectly implemented flavor combinations that seemingly flow from the artist in the kitchen to your plate and then to your tastebuds. It’s real and it’s rare.

In the picture above; The Beef Tenderloin Skewers (or Pinchos which stands for small snack) were so plump, moist and tender.  The Steak was Marinated, then Grilled and appeared to be Caramelized into the Meat. Do you see the texture on the outside? I loved the Sweet Potato Ketchup and Chimichurri (Parsley, Oregano, Garlic and Olive Oil – and what ever else they put into it). It was inventive and each component worked perfectly with the others.  Superb!

The Chef; I want to give a shout out to the fabulous Chef and artist’ as well as his team.  Chef Conor Claffey-Koller who creates an evolving menu that is true to each dish’s culinary roots while incorporating local flavors and modern presentations.  He is truly gifted and passionate about his craft.

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Oh my goodness! Look at these Beets?  If you are a Beet lover I bet you can taste them just by looking at them. The Beets were roasted and tossed in a Glaze of Orange and Jalapeño Marmalade. They were nestled sitting in a beautiful, slightly spicy,  Chile De Arbol and Goat Cheese Vinaigrette.  Oh my!  I would like to eat this right now.  It has again, the sweet and the heat component and then it was topped with Chopped hazelnuts and shaved, sautéed Fennel which added that Black Licorice taste to it.  This was simply superb!

May I note the prices?  I cannot believe how inexpensive things were.  For the quality, the time put into each ingredient, the ingredients themselves and the presentation I am simply blown away. 

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I have never before seen such a beautiful plate of Heirloom Tomatoes in my life.  These are Local Tomatoes with cold, Halibut Escabeche (es-keh-BEHSH) which is of Spanish Origin and is marinated in a Spicy Marinade and refrigerated for at least 24 hours. It takes on a soft, yet firm texture and it melts in your mouth.  I would like to know what spices they marinated the Fish in. The accents you see on the plate were the Avocado-Roasted Garlic Puree (genius) with Jalapeño, Radish, Cilantro and Toasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds). Fresh, flavorful and beautiful to say the least.

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Look at the Pan Sear on these Scallops!  Golden Brown, moist and tender inside-  perfectly done. Notice on the left side of the picture the Tamal, (Tamale). Genius! Who would ever think to add Tamal to this dish, but they did.  The Cheese used in the Tamal (I’m guessing is one of the Queso’s like Cojito) and is from Don Froylan Cheeses made at Ochoa’s Queseria in Albany, Oregon.  I loved the Tomatillo-Avocado and Roasted Tomato Chile de Arbol Salsa, both so magical it was hard to figure them out exactly.  The presentation on this plate is gorgeous with the Cherry Tomatoes, Micro Greens and freshly Sliced Radish.

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Our guest, John said that the Grilled Filet Mignon is his favorite thing and he comes especially for it.  This is what he always orders.  Look at it?  Isn’t it sensational?! The Adobo Rubbed Filet with the beautiful grill marks on the outside.  It truly is one of the most beautiful Steaks I have ever laid my eyes on.  It is topped with a Rogue “Smokey Blue’ Butter that melts into the Steak and makes you want to cry because it is so good.  I had the pleasure of tasting this and it was so flavorful and so tender you just wouldn’t believe it.  They are really doing something extraordinary at this place. Look at the Yukon Gold Whipped Potatoes!  Oh my! Look at the texture…

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Let’s begin with the crispy, thin, airy and crunchy, deep fried Bunuelos, (Mexican Pastry) topped with Cinnamon Sugar.  I loved it!  I especially loved how the Fresh Scented Lavender Cremeux (dense, soft, classic Pudding) seemed to melt into it and how you just wanted more with each crunchy bite. The Honey Anglaise, (light, creamy Custard) was just as beautiful. The finely ground Hazelnuts and Blueberries were sprinkled all over the top and I couldn’t quite figure out how they even made that. It was so unique and so flavorful and went so well with the homemade Hazelnut Ice Cream.  Beautiful to look at and exquisite in taste. I might add that it was huge but we couldn’t stop eating it until it was gone! Isn’t it beautiful?

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Oh my goodness!  This was sensational!  Don’t you just want to take a bite of that Cocoa Nib Tuile and then dig your fork down into that beautiful Chocolate Mouse? The bottom is Brownie , then the dense, rich, Chocolate Mousse and then topped with homemade Mezcal Ice Cream. Mezcal as in Tequilla??  The classic Tuile Cookie is made with crushed Almonds but can be flavored with Orange, Lemon, Vanilla or other Nuts.  Now, the Cocoa Nibs are from the Cocoa Bean Plant.  When we were just in Hawaii I almost went on a Cocoa Bean Farm tour but sadly, ran out of time.  The Cocoa Beans Hang from the tree and inside you find the raw Chocolate. It’s pretty cool. The plate was finished with Blood Orange Cremeux (fancy word for Creamy Pudding) and it was sprinkled with Guajillo Powder (a type of Chili Powder). So the dish had that subtle heat along with bitter and sweet.  Simply fabulous!

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The Raspberry and White Peach Gel swirled on the plate, draw you into a Buttery Pastry Tart filled with Smooth, Ricotta Mousse, Fresh Marinated Peaches and Raspberries, Crumbly Sable (which is a crumbly cookie accented with something else such as lemon, lime or nuts), I’m not sure what this one has perhaps Lime or Pistachio (?) It is topped off with Homemade Tonka Bean Ice Cream which was to die for!

*Look up Tonka Bean. It is quite interesting to read about.  They are rare, expensive and hard to find and at one time outlawed in the U.S.  The Pod looks like a Vanilla Bean but smaller and fatter, not long and skinny like a Vanilla Bean. From my understanding they have similar flavor components to Vanilla and Amaretto.

IMG_1219The Menus below in case you want to see what other amazing dishes the Chef has to offer.IMG_1220My friend Amber and Jesse turned me on to trying Craft Cocktails at the “Northeast Social” in Mpls, (see that review in the blog archives).  I tried the Latin 75.  Look at the ingredients above.  It’s so hard to describe the drink except for that is is fresh earthy, herby (if that’s a word) and like drinking perfume (in a good way).IMG_1221

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“del Alma” is a restaurant worth traveling all the way to Portland,OR. for and I hope it’s there for a long, long time!  I can’t wait to go back! When you go, sit at the bar and get outstanding service from Eva.

Happy Eating!

Visit my reviews on Trip Advisor, Twitter and re-visit past reviews found in Blog Archives.

del Alma Restaurant and Bar 136 SW Washington, Ave Corvallis, OR 87333

 

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